Your Mission: Not Be Ripped Off With Fake IMAX!

Image Credit:

To this day (even after Aziz Ansari’s famous blog/rant about fake IMAX), it still amazes me that theatre chains like AMC and REGAL get away with calling their slightly larger than normal theaters, IMAX screens. Sure, the IMAX name is on the outside of the theatre but is it truly IMAX? The short answer is hell no! The only “real” IMAX screen that I’ve personally seen that is associated with AMC is the Lincoln Square theatre in New York City. The screen is 8 stories tall and uses a 70mm film projector. The majority of the IMAX screen partnerships with AMC, Regal, etc are IMAX DIGITAL; meaning the 70mm film used to shoot the movie was shot on, is converted down to a digital format to be projected on a smaller screen.

Take for example, the AMC IMAX theatre for Empire 25 in New York City. The picture here ( shows you the difference between a DIGITAL IMAX screen vs. a true 70mm projected screen. If you were lucky enough to catch “The Dark Knight” in a true 70mm IMAX theatre, you were treated to the jaw-dropping change from a letterbox (35mm) image to a 70mm IMAX image. Obviously, the film going through the projector was always 70mm but Christopher Nolan only shot certain sequences using the IMAX film. Therefore, you get the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen for the sequences he shot in 35mm. Though, during the opening bank robbery, the truck flip and the hospital explosion, the film expanded to 70mm for all it’s IMAX glory.

If you’re a local reader in the DC area, the only theatre currently showing “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” on a true IMAX 70mm projector is the UDVAR HAZY theatre in Chantilly. Generally, science museums are the only places that have the true IMAX screen. The only way to experience this film is on a true IMAX screen. Director Brad Bird did such phenomenal job at picking and choosing which sequences to shoot in IMAX. I’m sure you’ve heard by now but if not, Tom Cruise did the majority of his own stunt work, including jumping off the tallest building in the world; the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. During these sequences, the 70mm IMAX film puts you right there with Tom Cruise and it absolutely jaw-dropping. I literally found myself squirming in my chair because I felt like I was about to fall 130 stories with Tom Cruise. I couldn’t imagine seeing the film on a “fake” IMAX screen vs. what I saw. The fact that these movie theaters would charge extra money for “fake” IMAX is just plain robbery.

I can’t stress to you enough how important it is to see this film in a “real” IMAX theatre. You and I, as audience members, are essentially being called stupid by these theatre chains. The fact that they even present these films in “fake” IMAX is just a slap in the face to the customer. Do yourself a favor, go see “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” at the AMC TYSONS CORNER in IMAX and then go see it at the UDVAR HAZY in Chantilly and tell me how much of a difference that was. It’s mind-blowing that the ticket prices are similar for an experience that is one hundred times better.

There have been so many films recently, i.e. “Star Trek”, “Super 8”, “Real Steel”, etc that are being released in IMAX theaters but they weren’t even shot in the IMAX format. Therefore, you have a director shooting a 35mm film and movie theaters are showing in their “fake” IMAX theaters. So you are basically paying for a “fake” product. The only films over the past couple of years that have had legit IMAX sequences are “The Dark Knight”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and now “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” If I am missing one, please email me at

The same goes for 3D. The majority of the 3D films coming out are shot in 2D and post-converted. Films like “Hugo” and “Avatar” were actually shot in 3D and deserve to be seen in 3D. But recent films like “Immortals” and “Clash of the Titans” were shot in 2D and converted later so the movie studios can make more money off the viewer. Theatres and studios are just coming up with new ways to rip the viewer off. I sat down with Martin Scorsese recently and he essentially said we shouldn’t have to pay extra for 3D movies. The 3D aspect is just another tool for the film maker to tell the story.

Well, that’s my rant. If you got anything out of this rambling and live in the DC area, check out “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” at a true IMAX 70mm theatre. It will blow your mind!


Kevin McCarthy
Follow me:

Posted on by

4 thoughts on “Your Mission: Not Be Ripped Off With Fake IMAX!

  1. Parking is free at Udvar-Hazy after 4:00 PM.

    I can’t agree more with BDK on this one. “True” IMAX rules. Having seen both Dark Knight and MI: Ghost Protocol at Udvar-Hazy, I absolutely cannot imagine seeing either one any other way. (The Dark Knight Rises trailer alone was nearly worth the admission price for MI, and I can hardly wait to see it—in full IMAX—this summer.) I have a huge DVD collection, but will likely never own any of these on DVD, not until there’s a TV developed that will at least come close to the 70mm IMAX experience. (I don’t mean 8 stories tall. I just mean your otherwise gorgeous 60″ flat screen isn’t gonna cut the mustard.) Hugo and Avatar notwithstanding, forget 3D. Bigger IS better.

    Do your homework before you go to Udvar-Hazy. Make sure the film you’re going to see was at least partially shot in 70mm. (I was fooled into thinking Star Trek would be awesome there. It was nothing but a 35mm film on a large screen, most of which went unused.) Granted, it’s annoying to have to arrive early and stand in line to get a seat that won’t crane your neck or have your head on a swivel. (This is one time where the back row of the theater is NOT a bad seat.) But I still think it’s 100% worth all the effort.

    As to the lack of concessions at Udvar-Hazy, I’m all for it. Nothing is more distracting and annoying during quieter scenes of a great film than all the crunching and rustling going on. If you can’t survive life without food or drink or a trip to the restroom for two hours, then you’d better have a medical condition. If you do, I’m sorry, but if you don’t, I’d just as soon you stay home. As I told the five young girls seated in front of me at Hugo, who were up and down and in and out and jabbering throughout the entire film until I finally spoke up, “This is not your living room.”

    P.S. If it’s not IMAX, my all-time favorite venue in the DC area for any big-screen-worthy film is the Uptown on Connecticut Ave. If it’s worth seeing in a theater, it’s worth seeing at the Uptown. Support the Uptown. It never disappoints. (The film might, but the theater, never.) The most realistic experience I’ve had in a theater was during a thunderstorm scene early in Open Range. It sounded like rain all around me. I thought I was gonna get wet.

  2. There’s more to the movie going experience than screen size. We saw MI:4 on Christmas Eve at Udvar-Hazy and were immediately turned off by the $15 parking fee even though we weren’t lingering in the museum. Further, once in, we queued up down a long, spartan hallway for 20 minutes until they opened the doors to the auditorium… where we found NO concessions and the emcee announcing no gum, drinks, or food and don’t get up to use the restroom or leave while the film is in progress. We won’t be returning.

    Beyond that, the movie was just OK and somewhat derivative – didn’t we see the jumping-off-a-skyscraper-using-a-fire-hose routine in Die Hard like 20 years ago? Having said that, I did enjoy the Batman preview even though I had no idea what Bane was saying or what was going on.

  3. Sometimes, these films are shown in letterbox on true 70mm IMAX screens. “Inception”, for example, was shown last year at the Udvar-Hazy center without having a single frame of it shot in IMAX. Why? A 35mm film (either straight 35mm or anamorphic 35mm) still looks and sounds HUGE on these screens. “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” was amazing to behold on Udvar-Hazy’s screen, and your tweeting and blogging about the difference between IMAX and “LIEmax” is helping more people understand that there is a different product out there. Thanks for that.